Here we are, 6 months and 21 days in. It’s the first day of spring. It seems like an appropriate time to sit back and reflect.
What the hell have we done?!?
If you’ve been with us from the start of this farming journey you’ll know that on August 31, 2013 I said goodbye to a regular (and fairly decent) paycheque, and jumped into a year of uncertainty. It was easily the most frightening move I’ve ever made, so it seems like reflection is warranted.
A lot has happened in 6 months. We’ve made new friends in surprising places ( the previous owners of this farm feel more like family than business associates). We’ve had to hustle as an intense winter settled in early and caught us off guard. We’ve lost some animals – Gryphon, the very special and deeply loved senior Airedale who held on just long enough to see us settle in, two very insane sheep on a suicide mission, and our beloved goat Cookie who succumbed to illness. We’ve also added some animals – four baby goats were born in the dead of winter, new Griffin (named by his previous owners) ensures that Airedale levity continues to grace our presence. Sweet Chloe the mini donkey, stubborn, bossy and lovely, keeps the barnyard in order and grants us cuddles when she sees fit. Clara the mini nubian doeling moved in last week to help boost our female to male goat ratio. Last, but not least, a few days ago, Troy, who less than two years ago would proclaim that he didn’t like horses, brought home a Haflinger named Fred. He seems totally enamoured.
We came into this game at exactly the wrong time to start making money. Late fall and winter are not prime farming season. I did a little freelance writing in the fall to pay some bills. I stepped up my goat milk soap production in anticipation of Christmas sales. But I started to panic as the year’s end approached and Troy was signing up for more and more overtime at work. Had we made a huge mistake? It bothered me every minute of every day to realize that my lack of paycheque was forcing Troy to work ridiculous hours. If he had to work non-stop to pay the bills, we were in trouble.
I worried right up until about 9 am on Christmas morning. Troy had woken me super early… like a kid at Christmas. We took our time opening the mountain of presents under the tree and sipping coffee and Kahlua in between, but by 9 I was unwrapping the last one. Troy disappeared from the room, and as I pulled the paper from that package, he strolled back in with a very expensive ribboned road bike by his side. My jaw hit the carpet and I realized that we hadn’t been struggling after all. He had worked all that overtime to buy me an amazing gift.
“I thought we were supposed to be poor,” I gasped.
We were anything but.
This winter has been long, and I won’t lie, it’s been hard. I’ve been sick now for almost 6 weeks. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do, but the energy has been impossible to muster. I struggled to build enough soap stock to start selling at the Kentville Farmer’s Market. I barely managed, but then for the first two weeks laryngitis left me no voice to communicate to my customers. The third week I took a break to let my voice heal.
I need to build chicken tractors, I need them built before the first meatheads arrive in May. I’m optimistic that I’ll get them done soon, but I wish they were crossed off the Giant To-Do List already. Planting seeds and taking care of them has even been a challenge. Today I repotted the seedlings and I felt a small wave of relief as I realized that I’ve accomplished something, even though it feels as though winter was wasted.
Troy has somehow built a little maple syrup empire. I feel guilty that I haven’t been more involved. He seems to enjoy it, though, and we’re receiving far more requests for the sticky goodness than we ever imagined. Next year we will be more organized, and with any luck, we can really milk those trees.
Things are about to get crazy. This is the first day of spring. Soon the ground will thaw. The garden will be planted. I’m teaching a course at NSCAD 2 days a week. The CSA deliveries will start. Meat birds will be raised, slaughtered, and sold. We’re going to fence a section next to garden and get some pigs to till the ground for us. Two or three young steers will graze our lower and side pastures until fall, when one side will go to our freezer along with a side of pork, and the rest will be sold. I also plan to do some foraging. We’ll build a walipini, a riding ring, finish fixing the big barn. Willy and Fred will get the training and attention they deserve. I’m going to ride that bike.
I wasn’t born a farmer. It isn’t in my blood, but it’s deeply engrained in my soul along with a passion for food and a desire for self-sufficiency. I think that both Troy and I must have been born survivors. I panic a little every now and then when I realize a paycheque isn’t coming. Then I take a deep breath and I realize that we’re fine. the bills are getting paid. We have two freezers chock full of good, healthy, clean food. We have everything we could ever want, everything we need, and a lifestyle that every billionaire on the planet should envy. We walk the lower field every day while the dogs run and run, chasing the scents of deer and pheasants. We are happy.
Farming isn’t about knowing it all before you begin… it’s about figuring it out and making it work as you go. 6 months in I’m confident that we can find the means to deal with any challenge we’re going to face. And I’m going to ride that bike!
6 months in. Let’s do this thing.